Apologies for the all caps in the title. You’ll soon see why.
Volatus had the best pinot at this Garagiste. Added bonus: they also have a chardonnay. Hal Schmitt, owner and winemaker, is a TOPGUN instructor. We thank him for his service, but are very happy he started making wine. Somehow he’s still an instructor. Here’s why it’s TOPGUN:
And here’s Hal in his day job.
We were greeted by Chris and Brenna who were friendly, knowledgeable, and informative. Hal could not be there. His son had a soccer game. TOPGUN, winemaker, and a dad. What more could we ask for? The answer, of course, is great wine!
The pinot noir is Paso Robles 2021 Adelaida District ($40). Spice and earth palate, mild acid finish typical of Adelaida pinot grapes. Give this one a few years to grow up. But it’s very nice.
Volatus’s chardonnay is the 2021 “Charlie” ($32). It features aromas of butter and oak, a palate of pear and green apple, with a few tropical notes and a good citrus balance. The finish is long with good acid and hints of minerality.
How much did we like these wines? We are now members of the Volatus “Ready Room” wine club.
Volatus contracts for a lot of facilities. Their wine is made at Midnight Cellars. Most of their grapes are sourced, but they’re starting a vineyard. The grapes come from a number of vineyards. They also look for unusual grapes, recently discovering Brun Argenté (Vaccarèse). They’ve actually been making wine since 2004. How did we manage to miss them?
The website has the full story. Hal was stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, about 80 miles northeast of Paso Robles. He regularly visited the big city to taste wine. One day in the late 1990s, he met Rich Hartenberger, owner and winemaker at Midnight Cellars. Rich and his wife Michele started making wine in 1995. My guess is that Hal and Rich learned from each other. And – bonus – Hal met his wife Victoria in the Midnight Cellars tasting room.
Fast forward today. Volatus produces about 800 cases per year. Hal, Chris, Brenna, and (important!) Victoria all look like they’re having fun. We sure hope so!